Older dirt horses take the spotlight Saturday, March 4, at Santa Anita with the Santa Anita Handicap (G1)! The $500,000 race is one of the most historic events of the racing year at Santa Anita, and it drew a field of eleven to vie for that rich purse, Grade 1 glory, and a place as one of the leading handicap horses going into the spring racing season.
The race covers the American classic distance, 1 1/4 miles on the dirt, and is open to horses aged four and up. Leading contenders include Clark (G1) winner Proxy, Pegasus World Cup (G1) second- and third-place finishers Defunded and Stilleto Boy, and San Pasqual winner Newgrange.
Many of racing’s all-time greats have won the Santa Anita Handicap throughout its history, which dates all the way back to 1935. Seabiscuit (1940), Round Table (1958), Nodouble (1969), and Ack Ack (1971) are among its classic winners. 1979 through 1982 were halcyon days, as its winners included Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry … and John Henry once again. Twenty-first-century stars who have won the race include Tiznow (2001), the beloved Lava Man (2006, 2007), Game On Dude (2011, 2013, 2014), and Shared Belief (2015).
Santa Anita Handicap 2023 Information
Race Date: Saturday, March 4, 2023
Track: Santa Anita Park
Post Time: 5:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time
Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Where to Watch: FanDuel TV
Where to Bet: TVG.com and FanDuel Racing
Santa Anita Handicap Odds
This is the field for the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap including post positions, trainers, jockeys, and morning line odds.
|1||There Goes Harvard||Michael McCarthy||Kazushi Kimura||12-1|
|2||Parnelli||John Shirreffs||Victor Espinoza||20-1|
|3||Newgrange||Phil D’Amato||Frankie Dettori||6-1|
|4||Stilleto Boy||Ed Moger, Jr.||Kent Desormeaux||5-1|
|5||Defunded||Bob Baffert||Juan Hernandez||3-1|
|6||Warrant||Brad Cox||Flavien Prat||4-1|
|7||Heywoods Beach||John Sadler||Ramon Vazquez||20-1|
|8||Hopper||Bob Baffert||Mike Smith||8-1|
|9||Scarlet Fusion||Joe Sharp||Edwin Maldonado||12-1|
|10||Tisquantum||Rolando Quinonez||Hector Berrios||30-1|
|11||Proxy||Michael Stidham||John Velazquez||4-1|
Santa Anita Handicap Prep Results
The San Pasqual on January 28 was the de facto local prep for this race, and its top three finishers all press on to the Big ‘Cap. Newgrange tracked the pace and won by a game length over stablemate Hopper, who put forth a strong effort in only his fourth career start. Parnelli, close to the pace for much of the San Pasqual, finished only a head behind Hopper.
The Pegasus World Cup also sends three horses on to the Santa Anita Handicap. Though winner Art Collector does not ship west, second-place Defunded returns to the course where he won the Awesome Again (G1) last year. Stiletto Boy, a clear third in the Pegasus, also returns to Santa Anita. Proxy, a belated fifth in the Pegasus World Cup, also ships west for the Santa Anita Handicap.
The other five entrants all come from different races. The only one of that group who is a last-out graded winner is Scarlet Fusion, who won the John B. Connally (G3) on the Sam Houston lawn but was mostly running on dirt before that. There Goes Harvard also comes out of a turf race; he was 11th in the Thunder Road (G3) last out after shying midstretch. Heywoods Beach most recently ran third in the San Antonio (G2), a race that was too short for him. Warrant comes out of an allowance prep win at Fair Grounds, though he is a Grade 3 winner and was a good second in this race last year. Tisquantum won a first-level allowance last out at Santa Anita and makes his stakes debut here.
Santa Anita Handicap Contenders
These are the contenders in the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap, organized by post position:
There Goes Harvard: He looked like a rising star when he upset the Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita last year, but has been well beaten in two starts since, one on turf and another on dirt. At his best, this late-running horse fits, and the stretch back out to 1 1/4 miles means he could come back to his best. But, demand a price since he came into the race with sharper form (albeit against softer company) last year compared to this year.
Parnelli: He came off the bench to run a close third in the San Pasqual against two foes he sees again here. However, he has yet to stretch out this far and did not finish the 1 1/8-mile race last out like a horse who is screaming out for 1 1/4. On the other hand, that was his first start off a freshening, and the relatively quick return is a positive. He also has tactical speed, which should help him carve out a trip.
Newgrange: He started his four-year-old year off right, winning the local prep a month ago. His tactical speed is an asset, and he is perfect in three starts at Santa Anita. The biggest question for him is the mile and a quarter, as he has yet to go longer than a mile and an eighth. His pedigree is a mixed bag for the distance, though there’s enough on the bottom to suggest that it may not be completely out of his range of ability especially given his good recent form.
Stiletto Boy: He has built a career on nabbing minor shares in major races at huge prices, and he did it again last out when finishing third at 45-1 in the Pegasus World Cup. However, his better form typically comes at distances more like 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 miles, and the Classic distance has proven to be a bit too long for him. This especially holds true when there’s going to be a horse like Defunded right there keeping him honest.
Defunded: He ran a credible second in the Pegasus World Cup last out, pressing the pace and running on for place behind Art Collector. His one try at 1 1/4 miles was not bad at all: he finished second by a length to There Goes Harvard in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita last year.
Warrant: Second by only a head in this race last year, he nabbed a few more checks in graded races afterwards and finally got back on the winning track last out in a top-shelf allowance at Fair Grounds on January 26. He came into the race off a prep at Fair Grounds last year as well, meaning this is familiar territory for him. With tactical speed and solid stamina, he is an interesting candidate to come face the West Coast horses.
Heywoods Beach: Some of his foes may find 1 1/4 miles too long, though this one could have the opposite problem. He is a winner at 1 1/4 miles in allowance company, though his graded stakes wins have come going longer: 1 1/2 miles. However, he did have some trouble in this race last year, suggesting he may deserve another shot over the classic distance, and he has built a nice relationship with jockey Ramon Vazquez in his last five starts.
Hopper: This lightly-raced four-year-old won the Affirmed (G3) against a short field of sophomores but dropped off the face of the earth until the San Pasqual in late January. Trainer Bob Baffert had him ready, however; he set the pace and held for second only a length behind the more experienced Newgrange. He still has upside to improve further, and broke his maiden from a pressing gear. And, though he has not tried 1 1/4 miles yet, his pedigree makes him an interesting candidate for high-percentage connections.
Scarlet Fusion: He comes into this race off of a stalk-and-pounce victory going 1 1/2 miles on the lawn, but most of his work has come on the dirt. The question for him is class, as most of that form has also come in allowance company—not stakes company, much less Grade 1. However, if he can run back to his last few races against these better foes, he may be able to set a few lengths back and stay on well in the lane at a price.
Tisquantum: This tactically versatile son of Constitution carries a two-win streak into this race, though those victories came in starter and first-level allowance company and now he steps all the way up to the big time. It is also a concern that he has yet to stretch past a mile: though his pedigree contains some stamina, this is a hard group to stretch out for the first time against, much less make a stakes debut against.
Proxy: A hard trier in the handicap ranks for a few years now, he finally got his Grade 1 in the Clark two back after showing more early speed than he normally does. On the other hand, he sat uncommonly far from the pace last out in the Pegasus, and Gulfstream’s more speed-friendly strip did him no favors. The question is whether he brings his best, especially at this longer distance at which he is unproven; his best fits but demands a price both because of the distance and the parking-lot post draw.
Santa Anita Handicap Past Winners Past Performances
Though which race that is has changed over the last ten years, the graded local prep about a month before the Santa Anita Handicap has been the place to look for winners of this race. Both Accelerate (2018) and Express Train (2022) came out of a win in the San Pasqual, while Combatant (2020) and Idol (2021) each finished third. Looking back to when the San Antonio (G2) was run in early February, Game On Dude (2013, 2014) came out of a win in that race in 2013 and a fifth in 2014, while Shared Belief (2015) also prepped with a win in that race.
Gift Box (2019) also came out of a win in the San Antonio, though by then, the race had been moved to its opening-day slot on December 26. Melatonin (2016) won the Santa Anita Handicap off of an allowance win, though he was previously Grade 3-placed.
The only horse in the last ten years to make his last start outside of California and then win the Big ‘Cap is Shaman Ghost (2017), who finished second in the Pegasus World Cup before shipping west for this race.
Santa Anita Handicap Undercard
The Santa Anita Handicap is the twelfth and final race on Saturday’s Santa Anita card. The card is one of the most important of the meet, and includes four stakes races. One of them is a three-year-old points prep: the $400,000 San Felipe (G2) for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. It also features the $500,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) for older turf milers and the $200,000 Buena Vista (G2) for filly and mare turf milers. The card features classy racing and solid fields all day long, making Saturday an excellent day to watch on FanDuel TV and wager through FanDuel and TVG!
Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Park began as a part of Rancho Santa Anita. After a series of owners, it was acquired by horse breeder Lucky Baldwin, who built the original Santa Anita Park in 1904. That facility closed in 1909 after a California law banning racetrack gambling, and burned down in 1912. Horse racing became legal again in California in 1933, after which the Los Angeles Turf Club was formed. They built a new track, the present Santa Anita, which opened on Christmas Day in 1934.
Santa Anita’s main track is a one-mile dirt oval. The turf track inside of it is a 0.9-mile grass oval. A unique feature of that Santa Anita turf track is the downhill course, which juts out to the northwest over the far turn, crosses over the dirt, and then joins the turf oval. Santa Anita runs 6 1/2-furlong turf sprints over that course, and also uses it as a start for some of its longer turf routes.
Santa Anita Handicap FAQ
Q: When is the Santa Anita Handicap?
A: The 2023 Santa Anita Handicap will be run Saturday, March 4, at 5:30 Pacific Standard Time. It is the twelfth and final race on the Santa Anita card.
Q: Where is the Santa Anita Handicap?
A: It takes place at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.
Q: Which trainer has the most wins in the Santa Anita Handicap?
A: Trainer Charlie Whittingham won the most editions of this race: nine between 1957 and 1993, most famously with Ack Ack (1971) and Cougar II (1973). Among the trainers who entered the race in 2023, Bob Baffert leads with five wins. He conditions both Defunded and Hopper.
Q: Who is the favorite for the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap?
A: The probable favorite for the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap is Defunded, off a second-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup. However, San Pasqual winner Newgrange and Clark winner Proxy have a chance to take significant betting action as well.
Q: Who is the best Santa Anita Handicap jockey?
A: The probable favorite for the 2023 Santa Anita Handicap is Defunded, off a second-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup, and he has been named the 7-2 shortest price on the morning line. However, San Pasqual winner Newgrange, Clark winner Proxy, and Pegasus third-place finisher Stilleto Boy have a chance to take significant betting action as well.
Q: Who won the 2022 Santa Anita Handicap?
A: Express Train won the 2022 Santa Anita Handicap for trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Victor Espinoza. Shirreffs and Espinoza reunite this year with Parnelli.